Monday, March 9, 2009

Sermon Prep Rev 3:1-6

1 "To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 'Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. 3 'So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. 4 'But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 'He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. 6 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

Rev 3:1-6 (NASB)

Ok, preparing for Sunday AM Sermon, March 15. What do I do? Again, the first thing is to pray. Then, in terms of study, read the passage. Preferably, you want to read it in the original language. Since my Greek is shaky, I'll look at it, but then continue by reading it in several translations. Here's a good place to digress into Bible translations:

The Bible was originally written in 3 languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek(which is different from Classical Greek, which is the Greek of Homer[not Simpson, d'oh!].) I read some Greek, and no Hebrew or Aramaic. I'm still learning these. Most of us are like this. We don't know the original languages, so God provides translations of the Bible. How do we get these translations?

Well, there's the rub. Some translations are made by 1 or 2 people. Now, there's a lot of text to translate, so it's quite the undertaking. Most translations are made by committees. Why?

Realize that languages do not have 1 to 1 correspondence to each other. Huh? Well, words have what are called ranges of meaning (semantic range). These ranges entail all the possible meanings of a word. Think this isn't true? What about the word "range?" It can be:

  1. A verb indicating something that is hard to keep in one place
  2. A place where cattle or other animals are kept within a boundary, but allowed freedom within it
  3. A cooking device, similar to a stovetop.
  4. A statement of the distance something can cover
  5. A place to safely practice gun control
See? Now, if you had to take the statement 'the cow is on the range,' and put it into French, what would you do? La vache est sur la prairie? or La vache est sur le forneau? Depends on whether you've got cow grazing on the range or grilling on the stove! In that case, one has to wonder about la vache or le beouf. French requires gender for nouns/pronouns, so "cow" could be "la vache" or "le taureau." Then, once you're in French, you have to consider that 'la vache' is also a slighly unnice way to refer to overweight women.

So, translation is not like math. 1+1=2, no matter what language you're using. There are decisions to be made about what words to use or not use. So, committee translations help to eliminate personal bias in translating or to strengthen understanding. Personally, I think the best study translations come from the efforts of committees. However, even committee translations differ, because of translation philosophy, and, honestly, publishing philosophy. You couldn't publish the ESV if it were just like the NASB and the HCSB and the KJV. So, you've got have some differences.

Part of translation philosophy is called dynamic equivalance. This is the effort to render phrases and grammatical units into the target language, not just a flat word-to-word translation. Why does it matter? Well, word order is crucial to grammar in English. It's crucial to emphasis in Greek and Hebrew. Ever see Star Wars? Yoda-speak is essentially word-for-word Hebrew. Never seen Star Wars? Watch the original 3.

So, you have to rearrange words, try and determine original intent. This produces the wide array of translations that are available. I won't go into detail, but here's my list of translations that I like, and why:

New American Standard (with 1995 Update): This is what I preach from, and what I mainly use to study. Good, more towards literal over dynamic, the translators allow you to figure out some of the emphasis points. For people with good reading skills, this is an excellent study Bible.

New Living Translation: This is a more dynamic translation, and is excellent for growing readers or people who need something that reads fluidly. It's not as choppy as the NASB.

English Standard Version: I don't have one, but I have this in my Bible software. Seems good, has good endorsements.

New International Version: I mainly used this back when I was a youth and a youth minister, but moved to NASB. Why? I like the literal translations better. NIV got a bad rap as the first translation to pass the KJV in sales.

Today's New Internation Version: Don't have one, don't want one, because I like the Bibles I have. Some of the decisions made in this one have been characterized as more politically motivated than Biblically motivated. I don't know.

King James Version: Ok, the KJV is a decent translation. Into the English of the 17th century, with some updates into the 18th century. There are some advances in understanding the original texts and languages since then that should not be discarded. There are changes in English since then. However, if you grew up with the KJV, and can't bring yourself to read something else, read it. But the idea that it's right and anything that's different is wrong, well, that's inaccurate at best. The KJV was made with the same processes that produced the NASB, NIV, ESV, NLT today: groups of scholars translated the best available texts, and compared their work, producing a consensus.

There are other translations, many have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some just have weaknesses. I think if you go with one of the above mentioned ones, you'll be fine.

Ok, back on the sermon mode: We'll be looking at Revelation 3:1-6. Text type? Well, Revelation is a complicated text type. The overall book is Apocalyptic literature, which means there's all sorts of symbolism in it. But, Revelation also contains basic epistles in the beginning, where you have a writing from an author to a church. So, we'll start by seeing what we can learn about Sardis and the church that is there.

Ok, some research shows that Sardis had been important in some military situations, but most of those were several hundred years in the past. An earthquake had devestated the city, but this event was probably beginning to fade from people's memories, lapsing into the realm of 'when I was a kid, I heard stories of the great earthquake.' What was Sardis like around 90-100 AD?

Apparently, the whole town had gotten kind of lazy and self-obsessed. There was adequate wealth to go around, and no reason for anyone to get up and do much. They were a city of mediocrity, that had the means and no willpower.

Okay, that helps us see what's going on with the people of Sardis. What about the church?

That's tomorrow's task...


  1. Realizing you haven't been in Monticello but a few months, if you were to give a description of this town, how would you describe what you know about Monticello ? It's people ? It's strengths and weaknesses ? It's spirituality?

  2. Gee, Zdad, feel in the mood to put me on the spot today?

    My initial thoughts on Monticello is that the world is passing by, and we're perfectly happy to let it.

    The difficulty is that, in trying to isolate ourselves, we are missing out on the good things that are going on, while bad stuff still seeps through our defenses.

    We seem to be very happy to keep being what we've always been, but aren't all that keen on questioning whether we've ever been what we should be.

    Our standards seem to be history and stability, rather than God's word. In some things that's good, and in some things, that's bad.

    So, all in all, Monticello's strengths and weaknesses are really two sides of the same coin. We hold fast to the things we value. This is a strength when we value what God values. This is a weakness when we value things separate from Him.

    And we really need to evaluate those things.


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